Skip to comments.[ Daily Tolkien / Lord Of The Rings ] Olog-hai Fidelity
Posted on 12/04/2002 3:04:23 AM PST by JameRetief
" Trolls, as you probably know, must be underground before dawn,
or they go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of,
and never move again."
The Hobbit, Chapter 2: "Roast Mutton"
" At the end of the Third Age a troll-race not before seen appeared in southern Mirkwood and in the mountain borders of Mordor. Olog-hai
they were called in the Black Speech Trolls they were, but filled with
the evil will of their master: a fell race, strong, agile, fierce and cunning,
but harder than stone. Unlike the older race of the Twilight they could
endure the Sun, so long as the will of Sauron held sway over them."
The Return of the King, Appendix F
Where are the Olog-hai? With a few lines in Appendix F in The Return of the King, JRRT created a controversy which may never be definitively answered. We're left with what appears to be a contradiction: in The Hobbit and in the Appendix F reference, J.R.R. Tolkien (JRRT, henceforward) establishes a rule that trolls other than Olog-hai can't withstand the light of the sun - yet we see or can imply daylight operations by trolls during the War of the Ring, none of which are ever explicitly labeled Olog-hai within the body of the story. What are we to make of this seeming contradiction? Or is it really a contradiction at all?
There are two schools of thought: one holds that the sun-sensitive trolls are only one breed, and that other, naturally sun-resistant trolls appeared well before the War of the Ring, as early as the First Age. The other school, the one that this article makes a case for, holds that the professor was true to the rule he established and that all trolls - with the exception of Sauron's Olog-hai - "go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of" when exposed to sunlight.
There are two main arguments which must be overcome in order to make a convincing case for this theorem. Proponents of the first school of thought mentioned above cite Húrin's last stand during the Nirnaeth Arnoediad from the published Silmarillion as evidence of First Age sun-resistant trolls. We will examine this passage in detail, taking into consideration earlier versions of Húrin's stand found in the History of Middle-earth (HoME) series, to support a different interpretation - one which is still consistent with the Olog-hai being the only known breed of sun-resistant trolls.
The second argument is that since the Olog-hai - unlike the Uruk-hai, Sauron's superior orcish breed - are never explicitly referred to in the body of The Lord of the Rings (LotR), they must never have seen duty in Sauron's campaigns nor been encountered by any of the Fellowship of the Ring. Some proponents of this theory view the Olog-hai reference as a curious anomaly, perhaps a somewhat clumsy attempt by JRRT to explain errors he made in having trolls in the War of the Ring travel and fight in sunlight. Others hold that Sauron may indeed have bred such creatures, but that they simply never saw action in the war. We will examine compelling reasons why the Appendix F reference cannot be easily dismissed, and we will show that a preponderance of evidence points to another explanation: that the trolls encountered in the War of the Ring were, in fact, Olog-hai.
Of Húrin and the Seventy Trolls
Let us begin by examining the first argument - that Húrin's battle with the trolls at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad offers proof of First Age sun-resistant trolls. It is important to note at the outset that The Silmarillion as a text is suspect because of the manner in which it comes to us - it is not a carefully finished work presented by JRRT, as are The Hobbit and LotR, but is in fact a work which was constructed, much like Frankenstein's monster, from many different pieces and versions of the legends which JRRT tinkered with all his life. Often, its tales are combinations of the best parts of half-finished texts with older versions, all assembled by Christopher Tolkien (CT from now on), the good professor's son. In broad stroke, The Silmarillion no doubt conveys most of the professor's intentions, but we must read the details it contains with a grain of salt - for it comes to us without the benefit of having been thoroughly prepared by JRRT himself.
Nevertheless, let's take a look at the Silmarillion passage describing Húrin's last stand at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, "The Battle of Unnumbered Tears", to see if it really provides proof of First Age sun-resistant trolls. We may seem to roam far afield for a time from the subject of trolls, but I beg your indulgence, for we will see in the end that the following arguments bear directly on the Olog-hai question.
The Nirnaeth - A Brief Overview
For those not familiar with The Silmarillion, the relevant history is here summarized:
In the First Age, Morgoth, the Great Enemy and progenitor of Sauron, stole the Silmarils, the most precious of all elven treasures, and fled to his fortress Angband in the north of Beleriand. Many maps of Beleriand do not display the actual location of Morgoth's fortress; on such maps, it lies off the northern edge, beyond the plain of Ard-galen. Following Morgoth's theft many of the Noldor, led by Fëanor, the maker of the Silmarils, exiled themselves from Valinor and pursued their Enemy to Middle-earth. His fortress was too strong to assault directly and regain the Silmarils, so the Elves were forced to content themselves with establishing a leaguer designed to keep him contained to the Northern wastes. Over the centuries that followed, many kingdoms were established by the different elven factions in Beleriand. In the North, a watchful eye was kept on Angband by the sons of Fëanor, who were bound by oath to reclaim the jewels that their father had wrought (Fëanor himself died as a result of wounds taken in an early and vain attack on Angband). But the various factions of Elves had a tendency to squabble amongst themselves. Some, led by Turgon, even retired to a hidden and secretly built city named Gondolin.
After many years and four great battles with Morgoth had passed, Maedhros, Fëanor's eldest son, managed to forge an alliance of Elves and Men aimed at disposing of Morgoth once and for all. They gathered together to prepare an assault on Angband, and even Turgon arrived unlooked for with a host of warriors of Gondolin. But Morgoth was much stronger than the coalition had suspected, and also he had lured some of the Men of the East to his side, and they betrayed the alliance at a critical moment. The field was lost, the allies scattered and hard pressed just to escape the battle before Morgoth's forces destroyed them utterly. But Húrin, a leader of Men, was true to his oaths. He and his brother Huor fought a rearguard action to allow Turgon and his people to escape and return by their secret ways to Gondolin.
The men under Húrin and Huor made their final stand at the Fens of Serech, which lie to the southwest of Ard-Galen, and there were wiped out, all save Húrin, who after a mighty final effort was finally taken alive to Angband, where he was held captive for many years. These deeds are recounted in fuller detail in Chapter 20 of The Silmarillion, "Of the Fifth Battle".
Deconstructing the Nirnaeth
It is during Húrin's final stand that we encounter The Silmarillion's sole reference to trolls. The pertinent text is here provided, since we will be examining it in some detail:
"So it was that Turgon fought his way southward, until coming behind the guard of Húrin and Huor he passed down Sirion and escaped; and he vanished into the mountains and was hidden from the eyes of Morgoth. But the brothers drew the remnant of the Men of the house of Hador about them, and foot by foot they withdrew, until they came behind the Fen of Serech, and had the stream of Rivil before them. There they stood and gave way no more.
Then all the hosts of Angband swarmed against them, and they bridged the stream with their dead, and encircled the remnant of Hithlum as a gathering tide about a rock. There as the sun westered on the sixth day, and the shadow of Ered Wethrin grew dark, Huor fell pierced with a venomed arrow in his eye, and all the valiant Men of Hador were slain about him in a heap; and the Orcs hewed their heads and piled them as a mound of gold in the sunset.
Last of all, Húrin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and wielded an axe two-handed; and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered, and each time that he slew Húrin cried: 'Aurë entuluva! Day shall come again!' Seventy times he uttered that cry; but they took him at last alive, by the command of Morgoth, for the Orcs grappled him with their hands, which clung to him still though he hewed off their arms; and ever their numbers were renewed, until at last he fell buried beneath them. Then Gothmog bound him and dragged him off to Angband with mockery.
Thus ended the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, as the sun went down beyond the sea. Night fell in Hithlum, and there came a great storm of wind out of the West."
Does this reference to Gothmog's "troll-guard" constitute clear and convincing evidence of First Age sun-resistant trolls? In this author's opinion, it does not.
This published account of the Nirnaeth is not to be found in any one version of JRRT's papers. It is a composite of several different versions which Christopher Tolkien assembled in an effort to incorporate all of his father's intentions with regard to the tale:
"The text of Chapter 20 in the published Silmarillion was primarily derived from the story in the Grey Annals, but elements were introduced from the old Chapter 16 in QS (V.307-13), and also from a third text." (HoME Volume XI, "The War of the Jewels", p.165)
This third text "was intended as a component in the long prose Tale of the Children of Húrin (the Narn)" (WotJ, p.168, cf. "Unfinished Tales") and, as we will see, appears to be the source of the troll reference, which is absent from the first two mentioned texts but must have been culled from the third as we can infer from CT's statement: "Other features of the story as told in The Silmarillion that are not found in the Grey Annals are derived from the Narn." (WotJ, p.168). CT reprints some of the Narn version to illuminate a "major divergence" which "altogether contradicts the previous versions" - more evidence of the overall unreliability of the cobbled-together passage in The Silmarillion - but regrettably stops short before he reaches the paragraphs we are examining. Here, then, are the two complete versions and CT's comments on the Narn version:
"Huor fell pierced with a venomed arrow in the eye, and all the valiant men of Hador were slain about him in a heap, and the Orcs hewed their heads and piled them as a mound of gold; for the sun was shining on the [fourth>] sixth and last / day of the battle and their yellow locks shone amid the blood. Last of all Húrin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield and wielded his axe two-handed; and it is sung that in that last stand he himself slew an hundred of the Orcs. But they took him alive at last, by the command of Morgoth, who thought thus to do him more evil than by death. Therefore his servants grappled him with their hands, which clung to him still though he hewed off their arms; and ever their numbers were renewed until at last he fell buried beneath them. Then binding him they dragged him to Angband with mockery. Thus ended the Nírnaeth Arnediad, and the sun sank red over Hithlum, and there came a great storm on the winds of the West." (WotJ, "The Grey Annals", p.76-7)
"But the Orcs now surrounded the valiant Men of Hithlum like a great tide about a lonely rock. Huor fell pierced with a venomed arrow, and all the children of Hador were slain about him in a heap until Húrin alone was left. And then he cast away his shield and wielded his axe two-handed; and it is said that standing alone he slew one hundred of the Orcs. At length, he was taken alive by Morgoth's command, for in so doing Morgoth thought to do him more evil than by death. Therefore his servants grasped Húrin with their hands, and though he slew them, their numbers were ever renewed, until at last he fell buried beneath them, and they clung to him like leeches. Then binding him they dragged him with mockery to Angband." (HoME Volume V, "The Lost Road and Other Writings", p.343 (paperback version))
" in the Narn it is said that Húrin 'seized the axe of an Orc-captain and wielded it two-handed', and again Gothmog appears (see The Silmarillion p.195)." (WotJ, in reference to the unpublished paragraphs of the Narn account, p.169)
Since neither of the older, more fully rendered versions refers to the troll-guard, to the westering sun or sunset, or even to Húrin's battle cry, "Day shall come again!", we must infer that these additions are from the Narn version. But even the short excerpt that CT tantalizes us with doesn't match the text we see in the Silmarillion. Clearly, the confusing and questionable lineage of this lone troll reference seems hardly solid enough to refute the Appendix F assertion that the trolls of the Elder Days could not endure the sun.
However, they may not contradict that assertion at all. Let us examine the details of Húrin's last stand. The big question is this: did Húrin slay seventy trolls in daylight or after the sun had gone down?
Húrin's Last Stand - A Different Interpretation
Some read the passage regarding Húrin's last stand in a very straightforward manner. The sun was going down, Huor fell, Húrin killed seventy trolls and many orcs, was finally overwhelmed by sheer numbers, and was taken back to Angband by Gothmog as night fell on the sixth and final day of the battle. But is this an accurate reading? I submit that a bit of detective work is necessary to learn what JRRT may have really intended with this passage. Let's take a closer look at the text. The reader may find it useful to refer back to the text excerpted above from Chapter 20 of The Silmarillion.
Húrin and Huor's rearguard stages a fighting retreat until they reach the Fens of Serech, where they decide to make their final stand. The first indication we get of the time of day as the battle begins to reach its inexorable conclusion is this: " the sun westered". At this time, Huor falls, and all the rest of his men are finally slain. The Orcs cut off their heads and pile them as the sun is setting. Last of all, Húrin is left alone. But what exactly does JRRT mean by "westered"? And when does the sun set? Webster's tells us that to "wester" means "To move westward. - Used of the sun, moon, or a star." This isn't very illuminating, but by carefully studying the different versions of the text and looking at a related account, we may see what JRRT may have meant when he used it.
First, notice that the sun westering and the mention of the sunset aren't present in the Grey Annals version or the older Quenta Silmarillion version. According to CT, then, they must have come from the later Narn text, the same one that introduces the trolls. This is significant. It's not unreasonable to deduce that JRRT added the setting sun so that the appearance of trolls on the field would not violate the rules he had already established regarding their nature.
In a related tale, we see another use of "westering" which may be useful for comparison. As those familiar with the tale of Húrin are aware, Morgoth finally releases him many years after the Nirnaeth. Húrin wanders around for a while and at one point tries to return to the hidden city of Gondolin, but is unable to locate the gate, which has been permanently closed by Turgon. Here is how the passage reads:
"For Húrin stood in despair before the silent cliffs of the Echoriath, and the westering sun, piercing the clouds, stained his white hair with red. Then he cried aloud in the wilderness, heedless of any ears, and he cursed the pitiless land; and standing at last upon a high rock he looked towards Gondolin and called in a great voice: 'Turgon, Turgon, remember the Fen of Serech! O Turgon, will you not hear in your hidden halls?' But there was no sound save the wind in the dry grasses. 'Even so they hissed in Serech at the sunset,' he said; and as he spoke the sun went behind the Mountains of Shadow, and a darkness fell about him, and the wind ceased, and there was silence in the waste." (The Silmarillion, Chapter 22 and WotJ p.272)
Notice the similarity here. It seems clear that JRRT is trying to draw a parallel between this scene and Húrin's stand in the Fens. And in this parallel scene, the sun "westers" and then almost immediately sets. This incident was drawn from a later text, too, another component of the long tale which would have fit in with the complete prose version of the Narn, titled The Wanderings of Húrin (see WotJ). Because the text ended abruptly and was incomplete, CT says that "In the published Silmarillion I excluded it, apart from using Húrin's vain attempt to reach Gondolin " (WotJ p.298), but the short passage quoted above is obviously indicative of JRRT's latest intentions regarding this tale. Some say that Húrin was taken to Angband as night fell on the sixth day of the battle, but Húrin's own words put him in the Fens, and not in Angband, at the sunset.
Let us return to the Chapter 20 passage. Húrin hacks down seventy of Gothmog's trolls, each time crying his battle cry, "Day shall come again!" Some claim that this cry has no literal meaning, that Húrin isn't really talking about day coming again, but is only referring back to the great battle cry of Fingon's host when they saw that Turgon had come on the dawn of the first day of the battle, "The day has come! The night is passing!" But it seems very clear what JRRT has done. Is it a mistake that these elements - the cry of Fingon's host, the trolls, Húrin's battle cry, and descriptions of the westering sun and of sunset - are all introduced in the same text? No. This text, written years after the publication of LotR and its Appendices, was carefully crafted to abide by the rules of troll nature.
The original cry was raised at dawn, and Húrin, as he chops troll after troll, also refers to the dawn. "Day will come again!" he cries defiantly, and he means it. He's telling the trolls that he's going to withstand them until they can attack him no longer. In the Appendix of the The Silmarillion, the Quenya word "aurë" that Húrin uses is defined not only as "day", but is also used to mean "sunlight" (look under the stem 'ur-' to find this definition). Logic suggests that Húrin battles trolls through the night, but finally, after day does come again, he is finally overwhelmed - not by trolls, who by this time must have all been killed or else forced to retreat - but by Orcs. This reading also accounts for one thing that the other does not - the sheer time it must have taken Húrin to kill those seventy trolls and the umpteen Orcs he slew after that. The text clearly states that the sun was "westering" as Huor fell, that after that Húrin alone remained, and that after that, he slew seventy trolls, and that after that he slew Orcs until the numbers of the dead finally buried him and he was captured. Could he have accomplished all that killing so quickly as to be captured and taken to Angband, which was miles from Serech, by nightfall? Plain and simple: no way - especially if we use the passage from The Wanderings of Húrin to get an idea of how soon night falls after the sun "westers". A more realistic reading has him holding out for hours against such great numbers and finally succumbing sometime the next day.
Some claim, then, that there is too much time unaccounted for on the hypothetical seventh day. How can Húrin be taken to Angband as night falls on the seventh day, twenty-four hours after he began his single-handed chopping spree? The terse Silmarillion descriptions often compress large amounts of time and lots of action into only a few lines. With a bit of imagination, it's easy to fill in whatever hours may have remained between the time Húrin was finally subdued sometime on the morning or early afternoon of the seventh day and his eventual transportation to Angband. For instance, at the end of Chapter 20, we're told that the Orcs gathered all the bodies of the fallen and piled them in a great mound. And it says in the passage cited that Gothmog took Húrin to Angband "with mockery". Isn't it possible that part of that mockery was forcing him to watch the bodies of his allies and kinsmen being heaped in a huge pile? Don't forget, too, that the distance from Serech to Angband was many miles ("Before the gates of Angband filth and desolation spread southward for many miles over the wide plain of Ard-galen " The Silmarillion, Chapter 14 "Of Beleriand and Its Realms"; c.f. Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-earth - she makes it to be over fifty miles from Serech to Angband). Crossing this distance, especially with a battle-weary army of Morgoth's forces, would surely have taken a bit of time, too.
On the other hand, this may just be an example of sloppy editorial work on the part of CT. There is a description of the sun setting to bring an end to the Nirnaeth in the Grey Annals version - perhaps the dramatic nightfall in the published version is just a holdover of that idea which wasn't carefully thought out in CT's patched-together "Frankenstein" assembly of the account. The overall process of making difficult editorial decisions regarding the tales of Húrin and his children and trying to combine all the different versions into a coherent account which was true to his father's intentions caused CT to lament in WotJ, "But it seems to me now, many years later, to have been an excessive tampering with my father's actual thought and intention: thus raising the question whether the attempt to make a 'unified' Silmarillion should have been embarked upon." (WotJ, p.298)
In any case, this reference to trolls, the only one to be found in the published Silmarillion, isn't solid, irrefutable proof that First Age sun-resistant trolls existed - on the contrary, it seems that the passage may be read in a way which is consistent with JRRT's assertion in Appendix F of The Return of the King that the trolls of the Elder Days could not endure the sun. If we had even one more reference to trolls in another battle, we might be able to concede the existence of First Age sun-resisters, but they are notably absent during daylight action even in the Nirnaeth. Gothmog's troll-guard isn't mentioned in his battle with Fingon, and earlier, when a veritable laundry list of evil forces issue forth from Angband, trolls are conspicuously absent:
"But even as the vanguard of Maedhros came upon the Orcs, Morgoth loosed his last strength, and Angband was emptied. There came wolves, and wolfriders, and there came Balrogs, and dragons, and Glaurung father of dragons." (The Silmarillion, Chapter 20)
The trolls aren't there because Morgoth didn't have trolls that could fight in the daylight.
Of the Appendices
Whew. Okay, we've done some heavy textual comparison, some real nit-picking, and hopefully have seen that there is at least a reasonable doubt about First Age sun-resistant trolls. But what of the Appendices? What are we to make of the information they contain? Is this just some stuff that JRRT slapped together, maybe for a second or revised edition, to toss his readers a few tidbits on the history of Middle-earth and maybe throw in a few "band-aids" in the process? Did the professor invent the Olog-hai just to cover up the fact that he had disregarded the troll rule he established in The Hobbit?
Certainly not. Anyone who argues that the Appendices were quickly and thoughtlessly devised editorial band-aids need only refer to Volume XII of the HoME series, "The Peoples of Middle-earth" (PoME).
"I have little doubt that my father had long contemplated such a supplement and accompaniment to The Lord of the Rings, regarding it as an essential element in the whole " (PoME, Foreword)
This volume is mostly occupied with JRRT's years of work and characteristic multiple drafts on the material that appears in the Prologue and the Appendices, and shows clearly that they were original material (that is, included in the original edition of RotK and not added later) and that JRRT, who was facing space restrictions imposed by his publishers, sweated over what to include in them.
Even if my father had not said so very plainly himself in his letters, it would be very evident from these drafts that the writing of an account that would satisfy him was exceedingly tasking and frustrating, largely (I believe) because he found the constraint of space profoundly uncongenial. In March 1955 (Letters no.160) he wrote to Rayner Unwin: 'I now wish that no appendices had been promised! For I think their appearance in truncated and compressed form will satisfy nobody.' (PoME)
JRRT saw the need for appendices years in advance, and worked on them for some time. So what is the Olog-hai reference doing there? Is it some sort of bizarre accident that even despite the space limitations imposed on him by his publishers and his own anguish over what to include and what to leave out, the Olog-hai somehow slipped into the finalized, published draft? Of course not. Based on our knowledge of JRRT's extreme perfectionism, his penchant for writing and rewriting and rewriting some more, and his need to include only the most important information in the space-restricted Appendices, we can only conclude that the Olog-hai reference was carefully included in Appendix F for a reason.
We must also take note of the conspicuous absence of any distinction between the various other troll "types" - cave, stone, mountain, and hill. Do these different terms really hold any more significance than do similar labels - grey, green, wood, high, dark - applied to various "tribes" of elves down through the years? Apparently not, as we may infer from their lack of inclusion. The essential physiological nature of all elves, regardless of their given "type", is that they are undying and immortal. It is logical to conclude that, similarly, the essential physiological nature of trolls - all trolls - is that they "go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of" when exposed to the light of the sun. Appendix F very specifically notes that the Olog-hai were unlike the older race of the Elder Days in that they alone could endure the light of the sun, and even then only so long as the will of Sauron held sway over them.
The idea that all normal trolls are sun-sensitive is backed up by Aragorn. In Book I, Chapter 12 of The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Flight to the Ford", Aragorn and the Hobbits come upon the clearing where the trolls from The Hobbit were turned to stone many years before. From a distance, Pippin mistakes them for live trolls, but Aragorn fearlessly leads the Hobbits to the clearing. Frodo laughs at having forgotten family history when he sees the troll-statues, and Aragorn adds, "You are forgetting not only your family history, but all you ever knew about trolls. It is broad daylight with a bright sun, and yet you come back trying to scare me with a tale of live trolls waiting for us in this glade!" Aragorn, one of the greatest woodsmen of his age, would certainly not have made such an unequivocal statement if naturally sun-resistant trolls were common in the Third Age.
It is clear that the Olog-hai reference in Appendix F is no mistake. So why aren't any trolls in the body of the story of LotR - that is to say, outside of the Appendices - explicitly referred to as Olog-hai? Certainly there are numerous instances where their super-Orc counterparts, the Uruk-hai, are referred to by their Black Speech label. To answer this question, we must consider JRRT's unusual attention to a literary concept called "point-of-view" (POV) in his work.
A Look at Point-of-View
"Point-of-view", as every high-school literature student knows, refers to the frame of reference used in a story. At first glance, LotR seems to be written from an "omniscient" POV. In other words, the story skips around between many different characters and places. We sometimes have access to what this or that character is thinking. The author seems to be in a position to "know all". But this is too simplistic and superficial an appraisal of JRRT's complex work.
JRRT was so intent on making his imagined world seem real and true that he often composed his narratives as though he were a character in that world recording the tale. The most obvious example is the "Red Book of Westmarch", from which The Hobbit and LotR are supposed to have been derived. In the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring, JRRT gives a lengthy history of the Red Book and its various authors, contributors, and transcribers. Bilbo is supposed to have written the first volumes of the book, which include his account of the quest to the Lonely Mountain and also Chapter 1 of LotR, "A Long Expected Party". As has been pointed out elsewhere here on the Downs, there is an abrupt shift in narrative styles between this chapter, which features the lighthearted, whimsical voice of The Hobbit, and the rest of the tale, which is characterized by a more sober, serious, and thoughtful tone. Arguments that this shift is a deliberate choice made by JRRT to indicate Frodo taking over the narrative from Bilbo are not without merit.
An attentive reading of LotR reveals that we are rarely privy to the private thoughts of any but the hobbits in the story, and of course we never gain insight into the minds or the "off-screen" activities of Sauron and his servants the Nazgûl. This is not by accident. Though seemingly written from a generic omniscient POV, the bulk of LotR is actually written as though Frodo had written the tales from an omniscient POV. A tricky distinction perhaps, but supportable by the fact that we never see things in the story that Frodo couldn't have found out about from friends and companions, and by the assertion in the Prologue that upon his return from his quest, Frodo took Bilbo's Red Book back to the Shire and during the years 1420-1421 (Shire Reckoning) "nearly filled its pages with his account of the War."
One notable insight into JRRT's attention to detail with regard to POV is found in one of his letters published in "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien" (edited by Humphrey Carpenter). In Letter 153, JRRT uses Treebeard's assertion that Morgoth created trolls in mockery of Ents to draw a distinction between an author and his characters:
Treebeard is a character in my story, not me; and though he has a great memory and some earthy wisdom, he is not one of the Wise, and there is quite a lot he does not know or understand. He does not know what 'wizards' are, or whence they came (though I do, even if exercising my sub-creator's right I have thought it best in this Tale to leave the question a 'mystery', not without pointers to the solution).
Clearly, here is an author who pays careful attention to POV, and is not above leaving out information that he knows if there's no way for his characters to know it.
How does all this relate to our original question - why no Olog-hai reference outside of the Appendices? Here's how: Frodo had no access to the term when he penned his account of the War. It's not logical for him to use it.
He did have access to knowledge of the Uruks, and to the term itself, through several means. He was personally acquainted with the term because of the Fellowship's encounters with Uruks in Khazad-dûm, and he certainly heard Pippin and Merry's tales of their own capture and bondage by the Uruk-hai who served Saruman. In a more general sense, the Uruks were proud of their superiority over garden-variety Orcs, and often proclaimed themselves. Also consider that the Uruks spoke the common Westron speech, a tongue shared by most peoples of Middle-earth, and that Orcs, as a rule, are more numerous than trolls - there were simply more opportunities for contact between the Free Peoples and the Uruks. The Orcs' tendency to brag, their use of the Common Speech, and their frequent contact with the forces of the West combine to make the term "Uruk-hai" accessible and generally known. Frodo's (and JRRT's) use of the label in the story was motivated.
Now consider that Sauron's Olog-hai spoke only the Black Speech of Mordor (per Appendix F), were apparently much less talkative than their Orcish comrades, and overall were less numerous and therefore less likely to be encountered by Western forces. Would Frodo have had access to the term Olog-hai? It seems unlikely. No one calls an Olog-hai by name in the story because it isn't motivated. However, the term could have been discovered later, after the War, when the victors had the opportunity to poke around in the remains of Barad-dûr, interrogate prisoners, and bring more details of Sauron's mischief to light. The Appendices, we're told in the prologue, were not written by Frodo himself but were "added in Westmarch" later in the form of a fifth volume of the Red Book.
Overwhelming Circumstantial Evidence
We've come a long way across many hard leagues through dangerous country. I do not doubt that some of the members of the Fellowship who began the journey with us have been lost along the way; still others may have fallen under the sway of the Shadow and have disbelieved the truths they have been shown. No matter. We must press on to the end!
We've seen that there is, at the least, some doubt about the existence of First Age sun-resistant trolls; we've seen that JRRT's reference to the Olog-hai in Appendix F of LotR was carefully considered and not thoughtlessly devised; and we've seen a (hopefully) reasonable explanation of why no troll is labeled "Olog-hai" in the body of LotR. Take heart! The Quest draws to a close. We're standing now at the foot of Mount Doom, and the heat is palpable.
There is only one question left to answer. If no troll in LotR is labeled as an Olog-hai, then how can we assert that most (if not all) of the ones encountered during the War of the Ring are Olog-hai? Elementary, my dear Watson. It's a clear-cut case of overwhelming circumstantial evidence.
Let's look at the facts:
Fact: Sauron saw the need to develop a race of sun-resistant trolls and spent time and energy breeding them.
Fact: Even the products of Sauron's tinkering, the Olog-hai, were only conditionally sun-resistant (" they could endure the Sun, so long as the will of Sauron held sway over them." RotK, Appendix F).
Fact: At least three references - the ones from The Hobbit and Appendix F quoted at the head of this article and Aragorn's statement in Chapter 12 of FotR - dispute the existence of Third Age naturally sun-resistant trolls.
Fact: The Appendix F reference to the Olog-hai was not an off-the-cuff or after-the-fact reference made by JRRT. It was carefully considered and included even in spite of the space limitations that he faced.
Fact: There is no conclusive evidence in The Silmarillion or in the HoME series to show that naturally sun-resistant trolls existed even prior to the Third Age, and thus no precedent for asserting their existence during the Third Age.
Fact: Rumor of a new, tougher sort of troll had reached the Shire even prior to Frodo's departure: "Trolls were abroad, no longer dull-witted, but cunning and armed with dreadful weapons." (FotR, Book I, Chapter 2, "The Shadow of the Past")
Fact: Trolls engage in daylight operations in at least two clear cases in LotR - (1) they march with the hosts of Mordor for several days to fight in the Battle of the Pelennor Field; they also participate in the siege of the city over the course of several days. And (2) the trolls in the battle on the Field of Cormallen before the Morannon are clearly fighting in sunlight:
" but the sun now climbing towards the South was veiled in the reeks of Mordor, and through a threatening haze it gleamed, remote, a sullen red, as if it were the ending of the day, or the end maybe of all the world of light. [And following the sunrise:] there came striding up, roaring like beasts, a great company of hill-trolls out of Gorgoroth." (RotK, Book V, Chapter 10, "The Black Gate Opens")
"All about the hills the hosts of Mordor raged The sun gleamed red, and under the wings of the Nazgûl the shadows of death fell dark upon the earth." (RotK, Book VI, Chapter 4, "The Field of Cormallen")
The conclusions to be drawn from these facts are clear:
(1) Sauron wouldn't have spent time, energy, and effort creating a conditionally sun-resistant strain of trolls if naturally sun-resistant types were already available.
(2) Common sense and overwhelming textual evidence argue that naturally sun-resistant trolls do not exist.
(3) If the Olog-hai are the only known breed of sun-resistant trolls, and trolls indisputably take part in daylight action during the War of the Ring, then those trolls must be Olog-hai.
The Olog-hai are not some mysterious footnote to the War of the Ring; nor did they spend the War twiddling their thumbs in some dank, forgotten pit of Barad-dûr labeled "Interesting But Useless Experiments". They strode upon the bloodiest battlefields of the War, they wielded Grond, the mighty battering ram that broke the Gates of Gondor, and for a dark and desperate hour of the world they beat upon helm and head under the broad light of day. The professor hid them in plain sight, though not, as he might say, without pointers to the solution.
Author: Mister Underhill
Published on: December 15, 2000
Coming from many sources, these articles cover many aspects of Tolkien and his literary works. If anyone would like for me to ping them directly when I post articles such as this let me know. Enjoy!
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12) All About Sam by Quickbeam
13) Count, count, weigh, divide by Michael Martinez
14) Real orcs don't do windows by Michael Martinez
15) Olog-hai Fidelity by Mister Underhill
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